The Mother of All Languages

By GAUTAM NAIK

The world’s 6,000 or so modern languages may have all descended from a single ancestral tongue spoken by early African humans between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago, a new study suggests.

The finding, published Thursday in the journal Science, could help explain how the first spoken language emerged, spread and contributed to the evolutionary success of the human species.

Quentin Atkinson, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and author of the study, found that the first migrating populations leaving Africa laid the groundwork for all the world’s cultures by taking their single language with them—the mother of all mother tongues.

“It was the catalyst that spurred the human expansion that we all are a product of,” Dr. Atkinson said.

About 50,000 years ago—the exact timeline is debated—there was a sudden and marked shift in how modern humans behaved. They began to create cave art and bone artifacts and developed far more sophisticated hunting tools. Many experts argue that this unusual spurt in creative activity was likely caused by a key innovation: complex language, which enabled abstract thought. The work done by Dr. Atkinson supports this notion.

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Categories: Human Rights, Languages

3 replies

  1. THE BEGINNING OF LANGUAGE: THE INCREMENTAL REVELATION THEORY

    By Syed Sajid Ahmad and Zia H Shah MD

    There are several existing theories about the beginning of language. These hardly explain any of the existing data and are merely speculative. Here the authors have proposed that the language developed by a process of incremental revelation of needed root words. An analogy is created between SETI and the complexity and organization of the root system of Semitic languages, making a case for pre-cognition in the development of languages. For the rest of the story go to:

    http://www.alislam.org/egazette/articles/The-beginning-of-language-200908.pdf

  2. MINANUR REHMAN

    Messiah of this age and the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, in the year 1895, wrote a book named Minanur Rehman, wherein he claimed that Arabic is the first language given by God to man and that all other languages are derived from it. He based this claim on the teachings of the Holy Quran and elucidated this proposition in the light of several verses of the Holy Quran. He even foretold that in course of time Arabic will be found to be the mother of all the world languages. He wrote, in his book Minanur Rehman:

    “All praise is due to Allah, the Sustainer, the Beneficent. To Him belong all Excellence, Grace and Goodness. He created man and taught him a plain language. And out of one language He created various languages in different countries just as He created various colors (of mankind); out of one color. And He made Arabic the mother of all languages. He made it the like of the sun in brightness and luster.”

    The claims made were bold and specific. At a time when these claims were made the only established facts in the field of linguistics were that the Indo-European languages are related and possibly coming from a prototype language. The reality of other languages could have turned out to be remarkably different from what was suggested by Promised Messiah. The aborigines of Australia had migrated there 40,000 years ago; the Native Americans were separated from the main body of humanity for 12000-25000 years. The continent of Africa was divided into small hostile tribes; if the language had blindly evolved it would have been very possible that totally different languages had evolved in different tribes and groups of languages could have different mother language. But this was not to be! To read the English translation of this book and much more go to:

    http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/arabic-a-revealed-language-and-the/1qhnnhcumbuyp/122

  3. The guidelines given by Promised Messiah are further elaborated by some of the scholars of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Out of them one well-known in this field is Muhammad Ahmad Mazhar, who traced many languages of the world to Arabic. Some of his articles and books cover 22 languages, more on this topic can be found on http://www.alislam.org/topics/arabic/.

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